Give and Take: Nationwide’s History of Staying Connected with Members
At its core, insurance is a relationship between the insurance company and the buyer based on the understanding that when the buyer suffers a loss, the insurance company will pay the claim.
Insurance is not merely a contract. Many businesses say they listen to customers but Nationwide has a history of paying attention. From its launch as the Farm Bureau Mutual Automobile Insurance Co. in 1926, Nationwide has valued the input of its members.
Today, the insurer is one of the largest insurance and financial services companies in the world, with more than $158 billion in statutory assets. What hasn’t changed is the company’s commitment to listening to customers. From its first annual meeting in 1926, Nationwide’s longstanding policy has been to urge customers to ask questions.
For a more in-depth look at the early years of Nationwide, click here.
Nationwide’s history of responsiveness
Inspired by the success of these early meetings, in 1952 the insurer’s president, Murray D. Lincoln, established the Advisory Committee of Policyholders (ACP), an industry first. Lincoln reiterated the cooperative principles of the Farm Bureau insurance companies and explained the purpose of the ACP as “to enlist more policyholder participation in helping … reach common objectives.”
Members of ACP held grassroots meetings in their states with the insurance company’s agents. These discussion groups met monthly during the fall and winter, when farmers had more time on their hands. In addition, policyholders located within a region were invited to attend these meetings and received reports on the committee’s activities.
The reports outlined particular challenges in the respective districts and the proposed suggestions to address them. The company’s 28 sales regions subsequently debated these recommendations and formalized the ones that warranted attention by senior executive management.
Sixty members from across the regions were then selected to attend the company’s national meeting in Columbus for two days to discuss the recommendations, at the insurer’s expense. More than 100 recommendations was the norm in most years.
Through 1966, when it was replaced by a Leader’s Poll survey, more than 169,000 policyholders had taken an active role in the ACP program. Similar in design and intent, the Leader’s Poll created a series of community-focused questions for policy owners. The survey helped inspire company loyalty and branded Nationwide, as it was now known, as an organization acutely responsive to people.
This commitment has not wavered in the years since. All members still have a standing invitation to attend and vote at the company’s annual meetings. Not everyone can attend, of course. Still, they voice their concerns and the company listens. In 1982, for instance, approximately 536,000 members voted by proxy.
In 2011, Nationwide took a page from its past and created a series of town hall meetings similar to the days when a few farmers gathered to discuss their ownership of a small mutual auto insurer. These Member Connection meetings continue today across the country, as a true testament of the continued importance of two-way communication.